The Laments: Where the Mind and Heart Meet

In the laments we see that while both the mind and heart are important, there are times when one needs to lead the other.

It’s easy when we read the laments in Scripture to zero in on the psalmist’s expression of emotion. We can relate to it. The prose is vivid and sharp. It describes our own pain as though we were looking at our heart in a mirror. Perhaps that’s why we are drawn to the Psalms when our life is a whirlwind of chaos, heartache, and heart-stopping fear. But the laments show us much more. 

 

We often categorize ourselves as being either a thinker or a feeler. A thinker is more likely to make decisions and act based on knowledge and a feeler based on emotion. When it comes to matters of faith, a thinker would emphasize what we know about God’s word and a feeler what we feel or experience in our faith. It seems like an either/or choice; it’s either the mind or the heart.

Yet there’s a place in Scripture where the mind and heart meet, where thoughts and feelings come together: the Psalms of Lament. And in the laments we see that while both the mind and heart are important, there are times when one needs to lead the other.

Psalm 42

As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God? My tears have been my food day and night, while people say to me all day long, “Where is your God?” These things I remember as I pour out my soul: how I used to go to the house of God under the protection of the Mighty One with shouts of joy and praise among the festive throng. Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God. My soul is downcast within me; therefore I will remember you from the land of the Jordan, the heights of Hermon—from Mount Mizar. Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls; all your waves and breakers have swept over me. By day the Lord directs his love, at night his song is with me—a prayer to the God of my life. I say to God my Rock, “Why have you forgotten me? Why must I go about mourning, oppressed by the enemy?” My bones suffer mortal agony as my foes taunt me, saying to me all day long, “Where is your God?” Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.

In Psalm 42, the psalmist is far from the temple, the place of God’s presence. He cries out in lament because his enemies have oppressed him and kept him from worship in Jerusalem. “My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God? My tears have been my food day and night, while people say to me all day long, “Where is your God?” (42:2-3).

The psalmist is in despair. He voices his emotions to God, telling him how he feels, “My soul is cast down within me” (vs. 6). He asks of God the question we all ask when painful circumstances cut into our life, “Why?” “I say to my God, my rock: “Why have you forgotten me? Why do I go about mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?” (vs.9).

But he doesn’t end there. He doesn’t simply cry out to God in sorrow and leave it at that. It’s not just an exercise in catharsis. Throughout his lament, the psalmist voices the truth about who God is.

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